This has stumped me (ornamenta/forage connection)

bklyndirt(5 Ithaca)October 20, 2005

I'm a landscape designer working on a project in Vermont. In deference to the huge influence of dairy farming in the state I wanted to include a perennial ornamental grass in one large planting bed (6' wide by about 60' long).

Here's the part that stumps me - I wanted to choose a grass that is also appropriate as a forage and or hay-producing plant.

Now, I don't want any of those farmers to invite their cows to my park, but I do want the ornamental garden to speak to the pragmatic agriculture of the state.

So for those of you who know their way around ornamental grasses more than I . . . do any of our ornamentals have a humble forage or hay history?



PS - As if that's not hard enough, I also want the grass to be anywhere from 18" to 36" tall. If it's too short it will just blend with the lawn and if it's too tall I'll have visibility problems.

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There are lots and lots of ornamental grasses which have a history as food for grazers. Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem) and Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) were once among the most plentiful prairie grasses.

Linked below is a terrific source of information about native prairie grasses.

Here is a link that might be useful: Prairie Frontier

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 7:06AM
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Pudge 2b

Phleum pratense (Timothy Grass) is another possibility. The grass foliage stays quite short and isn't particularly interesting however the tall, strong seedheads, which form early and last a long time, are (IMO) quite decorative going thru stages of green, purple and brown/tan.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 10:30AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

I knew this book would come in handy-someday. It's called Pasture and Range Plants put out by the Phillips Petroleum Company,1963. It says,
About Big Bluestem (A. gerardi):
"Few, if any, of the praire grasses can equal big bluestem in the quality or quantity of forage produced. It is relished by livestock and usually eaten in preference to other grasses in the mixture. Etc."

About Little Bluestem (S. scoparius [listed as A. scoparius]):
"This native grass provides nutritious grazing during the growing season and has been used for hay since the first days of settlement. Cattle have for many years been shipped from the south and southwest to fatten on the little bluestem ranges in the Kansas Fint[Flint?] Hills and the Osage hills of Oklahoma. Little bluestem produces from 3/4 to 2 tons of forage per acre and makes good winter grazing when supplemented with protein and minerals. Etc."

About Timothy(Phleum pretense):
"A native of Europe and Asia, timothy was commonly referred to in the New England states as "herd grass.""

"Throughout the area of its adaptation Timothy is grown extensively either alone or in mixtures with alfalfa and clover."

"This palatable, leafy grass is probably the most important tame hay grass in the United States and is more nutritious when cut in early bloom stage."

The book includes 59 species of grasses(native and introduced) if you want any more info.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 1:42PM
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bklyndirt(5 Ithaca)


Thanks you all for the responses. You've been immensely helpful.

Just to add to the info, I found out from another friend that Miscanthus varieties are commonly used as forage plants in Japan.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 9:49PM
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